Little is known about it, but is Hyundai’s Tarlac coming?


While Kia is flat out, and visibly testing its scantily camouflaged future one-ton double cab bakkie, sister brand Hyundai continues to play its forthcoming pickup cards close to its chest. There is however growing speculation around a Hyundai one-tonne bakkie. Let’s just say, all this Tarlac talk is getting interesting!

As revealed on a previous Auto Exclusive, spy images of loosely dressed Kia bakkie prototypes are well at work. That ties into Kia telling its dealers tales about a bakkie coming by 2025. Kia’s master, Hyundai remains mum on a prospect of a bakkie bearing an H badge, on the other hand. Hyundai and Kia vehicles of similar size however generally share platforms with unique bodywork and trim. They sell them as two different models as two separate different brands through rival dealer bodies. So is a Hyundai bakkie coming too?

Scratch a little, and it’s soon clear that Hyundai has long craved a one-ton Hilux and Ranger rival in its stable. It went as far as to file patent papers for such a thing just before lockdown. And Hyundai has even registered the Tarlac name for a bakkie. But that’s not all. Several Hyundai figures have had a lot to say about a new bakkie. Not least of all, its adoptive Australian arm, where boss John Kett discussed the prospect a year or three back.


“We are working towards a Hyundai ute”

“We are working towards a Hyundai ute,” Kett suggested. “We must just make sure that when it arrives, it’s still a bloody ute. We’ve had sleepless nights because we’re going fast down that road and we need to be smart about it. When people look at it, they must say ‘yep, that’s it! If we’re going to bring a ute out, it had better be a ute,” it needs to be functional. That’s the important part. We’re also looking at the range. 4×4 and 4×2, crew cab versus double cab and what powertrain goes with that, who owns them, and so on.”

Hyundai Australia product boss Andrew Tuatahi adds, “Powertrains, drivelines, the chassis’ ability to carry a load, tow and go off-road are fundamental to what we are looking for. Tied in to production capacity and facilities, it is vital that a one-tonne pick-up works for all the target markets that the vehicle will be developed for.” So being, expect Tarlac to match or better the stretched New Ranger’s 3,270 mm wheelbase for a roomy cabin and a load bay able to gobble up a Euro Palette. And still deliver decent 4×4 ability, where required.

Tuatahi was also understood to refer to Hyundai’s new multibillion dollar Indonesian plant. It will ensure similar supply lines to what Toyota Hilux, Ford Ranger and Isuzu D-Max enjoy in the Asian region. South African models will likely be shipped in from Indonesia to compete with locally built versions of those rivals. Hyundai’s plans may extend to the US where ‘midsize trucks’ are becoming increasingly popular.


What will be under that Hyundai Tarlac bonnet?

Aussie Kia boss Damien Meredith was another to allude to a Hyundai one-tonne bakkie as discussed the timing arrival of the Kia version. “Hopefully, we will be first to launch, but it doesn’t matter. It’ll be close.” Another piece of the Tarlac speculation jigsaw fits in around the Group’s new 205 kW 590 Nm 3-litre straight six turbodiesel finding its way under the bonnet.

“This engine has many applications,” R&D consultant Albert Biermann pointed out while discussing the Staria van. “We also make commercial vehicles, and this engine will be out there for quite some time.” That has led to speculation of a Hyundai straight-six diesel bakkie to take on Ranger, Amarok, and other future derv V6s. Other Tarlac engines are likely to include a 148 kW 440 Nm 2.2-litre and closer to 170 kW and 600 Nm Genesis turbodiesel four-cylinders, and a petrol four-pot. Add hybrid and electric options in the longer term.

All of which leaves how the Tarlac could look. Our first attempt, the white bakkie above, was based around speculation of a Santa Fe and Kia Mojave SUV base for this Hyundai new bakkie. The bakkie will however fall closer to the Staria in Hyundai’s range, which has prompted us to now came to the grey solution up top. Either way, unlike the Kia, there’s still too little to go on to accurately predict how ‘Tarlac’ will look.

All that said however, an all-new Hyundai take on the ladder-frame chassis bakkie similar to the Kia that clearly is coming, seems increasingly inevitable. Best of all, a strong Korean attack will add even more variety to an ever increasingly vibrant and ever-growing South African bakkie market. Bring it on! – Michele Lupini

Sketches: Michele Lupini

Dunlop Grandtrek
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